We’ve been so full of ourselves that even a 3-3 draw, away from home, against Russia in Saint Petersburg seemed a bit of a letdown. It’s understandable because it was a dull game, and under the circumstances maybe it was to be expected. Once Spain qualified for next summer’s World Cup (and watching Italy miss out) and after thrashing Costa Rica, last night’s game was always going to be a case of going through the motions. Lopetegui tried to shake up the atmosphere by making a few changes to his starting XI and during the game, and even set out with a different formation to the usual. Nights like last night serve to try out new things, seeing as the core of the team has already been established.
Ramos fires home from the spot
The main events of the night were the two penalties converted by Sergio Ramos who is becoming more popular by the day. It’s not the norm for a visiting team to be awarded two penalties. That they were given gave the impression that we are being taken seriously. Many eyebrows were raised when Sergio Ramos stepped up to take them. Memories of his miss from the spot against Bayern Munich are still fresh in the mind as is the one he had saved against Croatia, but you have to admire his courage. We’ve already seen glimpses of his boldness with that Panenka-style spot-kick he conjured up in the shoot-out against Portugal at EURO 2012. His average - five pens taken and two missed in open play, two taken and one missed in shoot-outs, so 7-3 in total isn’t brilliant but it isn’t too bad either.
Sad to see Italy eliminated
Elsehwhere, more teams secured their place at next year’s World Cup. Denmark booked their ticket last night after winning 1-5 in Ireland. In the next few hours another two teams will qualify from the ties between Australia and Honduras and Peru versus New Zealand. And meanwhile there’s still a feeling of commotion that Italy won’t be at the finals, the first time they have been absent since 1958. As our friend Maldini noted at the end of the match, no one under the age of 70 knows what it’s like to have a World Cup without Italy. For them, must be terribly sad. And I certainly wouldn’t like to be in Gian Piero Ventura’s shoes right now. He must feel that there is nowhere to hide...